The Bible: Controversy at the Nation’s Capital

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Controversy at the Nation’s Capital

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The Bible: Controversy at the Nation’s Capital

MP3 Audio (44.86 MB)

I teach a class about biblical doctrine to young adults at the Ambassador Bible College at our offices in Ohio. One of the topics I cover each year is the truth about the Bible as the Word of God. We explore the question: Is the Bible what it says it is—the revelation from the Creator God and a book of ultimate truth on which we can stake our lives? It’s rewarding to take the students through the proofs that assure us of the reliability of the Bible.

Sad to say, this portion of the class is much needed because the Bible has been attacked by skeptics and critics through the ages. A Roman emperor tried to obliterate all trace of Scripture in his day. Yet it has never been destroyed. It has survived all attempts to discredit, debase and debunk it. It’s truly a joy to teach young minds that they can rely on this Book as an inspired source of guidance for life.

Visitors to the Museum of the Bible will see displays that will give them, as its original mission stated, “confidence in the absolute authority and reliability of the Bible.”

I’ve been wryly amused by a few recent articles describing the newly opened Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. Critics and skeptics of the Bible appear to be fearful of any effort that seeks to establish the value of the Bible for modern minds. It seems the more they attack, deride and denigrate the authority of God’s enduring Word, the more resilient it is revealed to be.

Reading these articles stirred my interest to visit the Museum of the Bible to see firsthand how the Bible is presented and whether the fears expressed by these article have merit. What I found was fascinating.

The new multimillion-dollar state-of-the-art museum has as part of it its mission “to invite all people to engage with the history, narrative, and impact of the Bible.” This is a revision of its original mission as stated in 2010, which was “to inspire confidence in the absolute authority and reliability of the Bible.” 

Did pressure from critics lead to this alteration? The backers of the museum are evangelical Christians who have accumulated tens of thousands of archaeological artifacts from the Middle East, many of which shed light on the background, cultures and history of the biblical story.

Visitors to the Museum of the Bible will see displays that will give them, as the museum stated it in its original mission, “confidence in the absolute authority and reliability of the Bible.” Anyone who visits the museum will be exposed to the text of Scripture and can walk away not only with confidence, but a newfound familiarity with the Bible. 

The matter of biblical archaeology

A recent article at Science magazine’s website was quite critical of the museum, as one might guess from its headline: “Can the Museum of the Bible Overcome the Sins of the Past?” In addition to impugning the integrity of the museum owners and staff, and the artifacts themselves, the author quoted one archaeologist as saying that if “archaeology is being used as a means of proving the historicity and accuracy of the biblical text, that is extremely problematic” (Lizzie Wade, Oct. 16, 2017).

Yet as the museum was being constructed, Biblical Archaeology Review magazine published two articles by Purdue scholar Lawrence Mykytiuk demonstrating that archaeology is a viable proof of the historicity and accuracy of the biblical text.

The first article, in the March-April 2014 issue, was titled “Archaeology Confirms 50 Real People in the Bible.” The follow-up article, in the May-June 2017 issue, was titled “Archaeology Confirms 3 More Bible People,” as in the intervening time three more individuals mentioned in the Bible had been confirmed by archaeological discoveries.

Both articles describe the artifacts or inscriptions discovered by scholars that confirm the existence of these people mentioned in the biblical text. They include Israelite kings, Mesopotamian monarchs and various other lesser known people—all verified by artifacts that place them in the right place at the right time according to what is presented in Scripture.

Some give remarkable verification of the Bible’s story.

In fact, several exhibits at the Museum of the Bible provide archaeological evidence confirming the biblical story of the Israelite occupation of the Holy Land. Evidence of towns built by Israelites during the united monarchy under King David, such as Khirbet Qeiyafa, are presented through an exhibit provided by the Israeli Antiquities Authority. This ancient city was excavated near the site of David’s encounter with Goliath, and its strong fortifications protected it during years of conflict along the Israelite-Philistine border.

The Museum of the Bible’s connections with Israeli archaeology provides visitors with some basic exposure to the knowledge and research that sheds light on the biblical story and confirms the historical truth of its record. This is an effective counter to today’s increasing secular attacks against God and His holy Word.

Fear of Bible influence in the national conversation

The museum is financed by the same family that owns the U.S.-based Hobby Lobby chain of craft and decorating stores. It is located within view of the United States Capitol building and near the buildings of the Smithsonian Institution in downtown Washington.

The proximity to the seat of American political power caused one writer, in an article on the website of the liberal British newspaper The Guardian, to express the fear that “this edifice could represent the coming out, again, of evangelical America. I can assure you the museum is going to become a convening platform for conservative Christian activism” (quoted by David Smith, “Inside the Sprawling, Controversial $500m Museum of the Bible,” Oct. 16, 2017).

American evangelical Christianity has in the past been an influential voice in U.S. politics. It was the driving force behind the Moral Majority movement of the 1980s, which was credited with a role in electing Ronald Reagan to the presidency. Its political influence has declined in recent years as America has drifted in an increasingly secular direction.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is an evangelical Christian, and his supporting role in President Donald Trump’s administration is carefully watched (and often demonized) by those who desire to push religion further from the American public square.

Of course, we can certainly expect those pushing against Judeo-Christian influence in society to be in opposition to the half-billion-dollar Museum of the Bible. This multimedia experience will no doubt draw millions of visitors. And those who take the time to examine its hundreds of exhibits likely will develop a deeper appreciation of the Bible as a book that has dramatically shaped history and nations and lives.

The Bible is a unique book that makes many direct statements to its authenticity as the authoritative revelation from the Creator God of the universe. It contains profound understanding and wisdom about many aspects of life. The Bible alone reveals the truth about God and His purpose for creating human life. Only within its pages can we find true answers to our questions about God, who and what man is, and the purpose for human life.

Most importantly, it provides guidance and direction as to how we should live. So it shouldn’t be surprising that the inauguration of a museum dedicated to telling its story and encouraging interest and inquiry should invite skeptical reporting from today’s media.

Strange accusations of hiding agenda

Notice another comment in the Guardian article from an atheist taking direct aim at the museum’s mission. It quotes Nick Fish, national program director of an atheist group that promotes strict separation of church and state, as saying, “With many of these religious ‘museums,’ the tendency is to dress up evangelism and dogma with a veneer of academia to lend an undeserved cloak of neutrality.”

An “undeserved cloak of neutrality”? That’s a bit of a stretch! Sponsoring a museum dedicated to the Bible makes a certain statement in itself. And those behind it are known to believe in the value and authenticity of the Bible. Any who accept and believe the Bible are people with a “dogma,” which is by definition a set of principles rooted in an authority regarded as true.

There does not seem to be any attempt to “cloak” the intention behind the museum—except perhaps for the watering down of the initial mission statement, as mentioned previously. But this is clearly not to the point of “neutrality.”

Those who will put a half billion dollars of their own money behind this effort cannot remotely be accused of being neutral. They have taken a stand for their belief. They are not neutral, and any clear-thinking person visiting the museum will understand that before going through the doors.

In fact, I am sure many visitors will find their half-formed assumptions about the Bible, in many cases based on distortions arising from a hostile and uninformed media culture, challenged. And that will be a good thing!

A divided, wayward nation needs the Bible—and to take heed

Sadly, I was struck by the apparent fear expressed by the authors of the articles referred to above and those they quoted. They seem to fear the existence of religion—of people holding a faith in God and the Bible—especially when it comes to the echelons of government.

I mentioned that U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is an evangelical Christian. But it should be noted that according to a recent Pew Research Analysis, more than 9 in 10 members of the current U.S. Congress describe themselves as Christian. This compares with 7 in 10 American adults who claim various forms of Christianity as their faith.

Will the Museum of the Bible be a “convening platform” in the center of the nation’s capital for people of faith to effect a change in the country? Should Americans who have no faith or are anti-faith fear a resurgence of a “moral majority”-like evangelical presence in American politics and culture?

What Americans should fear is the judgment of God on a nation that was settled and founded by men and women who believed in the Bible and the God it reveals. America has put the name of God and quotes from the Bible on its currency, its seals and many public buildings of its capital. America has invoked the name and the blessings of that God. Yet its current state of affairs does not reflect the teachings of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

What Americans should fear is the judgment of God on a people who have used His name in vain and failed to live up to their calling to be a light to the world. On the walls of the memorial to President Thomas Jefferson are these words of warning: “God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? . . . I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever.”

What Americans should fear is the judgment of God invoked by Abraham Lincoln and placed on the walls of his memorial: “The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.” When a people call on God to bless their efforts and do not live up to the Word of God in their lives, His judgments as given through His prophets are on their heads. We are at a moment in the American story where it is past time to consider the words of the biblical prophets. God’s judgment hangs over the nation.

Clearly America is divided. It is divided over politics, foreign policy, taxation, wealth redistribution, gender issues and much, much more. Some are now saying the republic has not seen such a rift in their lifetimes, or even since the days before the American Civil War.

At stake in this culture war is the very identity of the nation and its purpose among the nations. No one person, religion, political party or respected leader has been able to stand up and command any sizeable following to correct the decline the nation has experienced over recent years. President Trump’s election in November 2016 and his stated desire to make America great again have not brought people together around a common cause. As we have pointed out in recent issues of Beyond Today, this division is crippling America’s role as a leader in the world.

While there can certainly be much value and help in a museum dedicated to the Bible, it’s much more vital for all of us to delve into the Bible itself—to read what it says and live by its words. Scripture makes strong comments about America’s problems, including false religion that bears little resemblance to the true teachings found in the Bible.

And while we applaud the effort to highlight the importance of the Bible, we will also not shy from showing what God reveals is true worship and true religion. We wish this museum would highlight not only the historical accuracy and reliability of the Bible, but also prominently display the fundamental truths of the Bible—the truth on which any faith, any church and any nation must be built.

It is written!

At the end of all the debate and discussion, it is left for each of us to prove the Bible true and then choose to live by every word contained in its pages.

Jesus Christ, the living Word of God, showed the value of Scripture as a key to dealing with life’s temptations in His direct confrontation with Satan the devil. Matthew 4 and Luke 4 record a monumental confrontation between Jesus and Satan over who would be worshipped, God or the devil. Satan threw three tests at Jesus—hunger, pride of life, and power.

Three times Jesus confronted the devil’s temptations with Scripture. “It is written,” Jesus responded as He quoted the scriptures that not only strengthened His resolve to resist the devil but to rebuke and counter the power of the fallen Lucifer. On the third temptation Jesus added, “Away with you Satan!” and with that command “the devil left Him” (Matthew 4:10-11).

Today’s culture has drunk deep of the skeptical spirit evidenced here by Satan. The devil sought to undermine Christ’s faith with the small, two-letter word “if.” Christ resisted and overcame any doubt by the use of Scripture. This is the same Scripture available today to each of us. We cannot expect to resist the satanic culture of this world apart from a thorough knowledge, respect for and use of the Bible.

Use the tools we freely make available to you through the Beyond Today magazine, TV program, website and study guides to help you have confidence in the Bible as God’s revealed Word!



A Clay Tablet’s Astounding Testimony

A few years ago I was touring the famous Pergamon Museum in Berlin, which contains many artifacts excavated in the ruins of ancient Babylon. My German guide pointed out a clay tablet covered with cuneiform text. Next to it, in German, was an explanation of the text, which mentioned one of the last kings of Judah, Jehoiachin, also known as Jeconiah.

During his reign, according to Scripture, the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar besieged and looted Jerusalem and took Jehoiachin and most of the rest of Jerusalem’s nobility captive to Babylon. A few years later Jerusalem was destroyed (2 Kings 24:8-25; 2 Kings 25:1-11).

After nearly four decades of imprisonment in Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar’s son and successor Evil-Merodach (or Amel-Marduk) released Jehoiachin and gave him an honored position at the Babylonian court. “And as for his provisions, there was a regular ration given him by the king, a portion for each day, all the days of his life” (2 Kings 25:30).

What was the tablet on display in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin? It was the 2,500-year-old shopping list for the household of King Jehoiachin, mentioning him by name and listing the food provided by the Babylonian king who had bestowed honor on him!

There, among hundreds of other artifacts in the museum, was a piece of living history proving once again the biblical story is real history! This is just one of many such examples. And how many artifacts that corroborate more of the biblical record are yet to be unearthed in the lands of the Bible?

Skeptics will point to the lack of hard proof for people such as Moses or Abraham as evidence to support their personal belief that the Bible is not true. Yet it should be realized that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. And could it be that physical evidence yet exists within undiscovered ancient libraries or other caches of objects and records from that time that, when discovered and properly analyzed, will yield additional information on that period and again confirm the biblical record to be true? This is why I find the criticism of and attacks on the Museum of the Bible to be so absurd.

-- Darris McNeely


Can We Trust the Bible on Christ as the Only Way?

The Bible teaches that repentance from sin with faith in Jesus Christ is the only path to salvation and eternal life. It shows the apostle Peter boldly proclaiming that salvation can come only through the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 4:10-12).

Moreover, Jesus Himself is recorded as having said: “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved” and “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 10:9; John 14:6).

Can we confirm the validity of this testimony? The New Testament is of course based on the Old Testament—and it affirms much that is proclaimed in the Old Testament. But how can we know that this witness, the whole Bible, is true? What reasons are there to believe that the Bible is the Word of God, as it claims to be? Individually, our personal relationship with God as we seek and follow Him can serve as strong subjective evidence. However, there are several areas of objective evidence as well.

Among the numerous objective proofs are the fulfillment of Bible prophecy, the scientific accuracy of the Bible and the confirmation of the biblical narrative by archaeology.

Fulfilled prophecy: One of the most powerful and compelling reasons to believe the Bible is that God has accurately foretold the future throughout history. God Himself offered this as definitive proof of His sovereignty, saying through the prophet Isaiah, “I am God and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done” (Isaiah 46:10).

Among this evidence are the detailed prophecies in the book of Daniel about the rise and fall of world empires, which were fulfilled in amazing detail over the course of centuries. You can read about the fulfillment of these and many other amazing prophecies in our free study guide The Middle East in Bible Prophecy.

Additionally, Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled dozens of highly specific prophecies when He came as the Messiah in the flesh, and these prophecies were written by numerous authors over more than a thousand years leading up to His human life! A list of Jesus’ prophetic fulfillments can be found in our free study guide Jesus Christ: The Real Story.

Throughout the history of the people of ancient Israel, God repeatedly foretold their future and brought it to pass. You can find more information about God’s interaction with them and promises concerning them in in our free study guides The Middle East in Bible Prophecy and The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy.

Scientific accuracy: Another reason to trust in the Bible is the startling accuracy of what it says in light of science, despite having been written thousands of years before modern discoveries.

For example, the article “God and Astronomy” in our January-February 2017 issue explains the Bible’s consistency with astronomical realities long before they were discovered, including a starting point for the universe, the spherical shape of the earth and the fact that our planet is not held up by anything in space. While other ancient religions included many myths and incorrect statements about the universe, the Bible is strikingly accurate.

Historical corroboration: It is also important to note that history and archaeology overwhelmingly support the biblical record. The list of people, places and events of the Bible that have been verified by archaeology in modern times is nothing short of staggering.

No other religious book even comes close to the Bible on its scientific and historical accuracy, or the immense number of fulfilled prophecies it contains.

Given the weight of evidence supporting the Bible as the Word of God, we can trust what it says about how to live our lives, how to enter into a relationship with God and how to receive eternal life. The Bible clearly states that repentance with faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to receive salvation. And that’s how we can know that Christianity is indeed the one true religion.

For more proof of the authenticity and reliability of the Bible, be sure to read our free study guide Is the Bible True?

-- Steven Britt


A Visit to the New Museum of the Bible

Beyond Today writer and presenter Darris McNeely and I visited the brand-new Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., just a week after it opened—and we were very impressed with the quality of the exhibits and the size and grandeur of the museum. It encompasses eight large floors and is situated very close to the national mall memorials and Smithsonian museums.

The museum tastefully represents the history of Scripture considered holy by the Jewish and Christian faiths. Numerous displays hold ancient manuscripts, Bibles, scrolls and fragments of the Word of God.

Exhibits include a number of videos depicting the history of the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament, the story of the New Testament, and the lives of several biblical authors. These are very professionally done, and honor the words of God they convey. Many theaters and video displays nicely illustrate the stories and themes of the Bible. Several restaurants and eateries help you keep your energy up—since to see everything in the museum can take a 10-hour day or more!

Very worthwhile exhibits overall

Here are some of the positive highlights you can expect to encounter at the museum:

The contribution of the Israel Antiquities Authority is a big plus for the museum. This allows for original artifacts from biblical times to be on display, some even from the time of ancient Israel in the 12th century B.C.

Original fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls demonstrate the accuracy of Scripture as passed on to us today. Additional facsimiles and reproductions of many of the Qumran scroll pieces add to what can be studied and verified.

Visitors are able to walk through a recreated first-century town of Nazareth, including a synagogue with a person in period dress giving an animated talk. The importance of the Sabbath was especially stressed, pointing out that Jesus, His disciples and the early Church kept the seventh-day Sabbath. (It wasn’t until the fourth century that the Roman Emperor Constantine enforced changing the Sabbath by commanding that people work on Saturday, the seventh day of the week, and rest on Sunday, the first day.)

The archaeological and extra-biblical evidence for characters from the Bible is on display—showing these people truly existed in spite of skeptics’ claims. One of the best portions gives evidence of the life of King David and his reign.

Visitors will be surprised to be reminded of how much music, even more recent music, is inspired by Scripture. And to follow, an exhibit shows how a large portion of our cinematic world has biblical themes. The Bible has had a big impact on Western culture.

Entrance to the museum is free, but donations are gratefully accepted. However, some special exhibits do have fees to enter. One such item is a motion ride (like you experience at theme parks) that takes riders—with  high-speed ups and downs and twists of motion—on a tour of all the buildings and monuments of the nation’s capital where Scripture is quoted. Afterwards, on reflection, you know there is no doubt about America’s religious foundation and heritage. At its core is the fundamental belief in the Creator God of the Bible! It’s emblazoned across the city—to the chagrin of many non-believers. [EDITOR'S NOTE: When it opened to the public, the museum offered free admission with a suggested donation of $15.00. However, on December 10, 2018, the museum began to charge admission fees of up to $24.99 per person.]

The museum does good service in melding science and the Bible. The two are compatible and not mutually exclusive. Much of science is shown to have been rooted in a scriptural worldview, and when properly compared the Bible and science are in sync.

A few negatives

There really is not much that can be said against the museum. But here are a few points to make note of:

A strange and perhaps unnecessary display includes the influence of the Bible on modern fashion. Quite honestly, it seemed out of place.

In the lobby and lower galleries, several displays and exhibits are not directly related to the formation, content or broad impact of the Bible, and in fact concern extra-biblical traditions. These include “Stations of the Cross” by Gib Singleton, “Christmas Illuminated” from the Bavarian State Library, and reproductions of art and books from the Vatican Library. I would prefer to see actual biblical teachings and traditions presented rather than traditions and concepts that developed after the Bible was written, many of which are contrary to Scripture, like Christmas celebrations and the Trinity.

Another plus—no major Jesus images

One of the major criticisms levied against the Museum of the Bible has been its lack of images of Jesus. And it’s true—there are no giant portraits of Jesus, corresponding statues, or stained glass or classic art pieces. I’m actually very happy about that!

Why? For one, devotional portraits and statues of Jesus conflict with the Second Commandment against using images of God in worship—and that includes Jesus. And for another, the common depictions of Jesus are not accurate. In fact, they are very misleading. It is known and widely accepted among historians and biblical scholars that Jesus did not have long hair and was not an emasculated, effeminate man as typically shown in ancient and modern artwork.

No, Jesus looked like a common Jewish man of His day—so much so, in fact, that He could not be picked out of a crowd (John 18:4-8; John 7:10-12). If He were the only man around Judea with long hair, He would have been immediately noticed! So, in visiting the museum, it was good to see that the historical record was not besmirched by false depictions of Jesus that would have distracted from the biblical messages being conveyed.

Lending support to what I’m saying, the museum correctly depicts Jesus’ disciples with short, dark hair (not long hair), just like other Jews of the day. Men did not wear long hair in Judea in the first century!

Moreover, sensitivity toward concerns over Jesus’ portrayal is apparent in the fact that throughout the museum in videos and reenactments of Jesus’ life, He is shown tastefully from behind, and with full-length clothing and head covering. You really cannot see His face or what He looked liked.

So, all in all, and despite the criticism given by some visitors, it was a pleasant surprise to find an absence of what would most likely have otherwise been misleading and improper images of Jesus.

That being said, there is no doubt that when studying the exhibits of the Word of God in Scripture, you “see” God everywhere!

Put it on your D.C. bucket list

The Museum of the Bible is certainly worth visiting—especially if you’re one who respects and believes the Word of God. It’s a very tasteful and honorable representation of Scripture.

The museum contains plenty of space for future additions, and is able to host special exhibits from other prestigious institutions from around the world. It will be interesting to see new exhibits added as the years progress and as science and archaeology uncover yet more evidence of the veracity of Scripture.

-- Peter Eddington